Democrats Propose Bill to Increase Maximum Penalty for OSHA “Willful” Violations to $700,000 as Part of $3.5 Trillion Budget Reconciliation Package

The proposed penalty increase is part of a $707 million OSHA budget increase through 2026 that is contained in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package.  President Biden has repeatedly expressed his intent to ramp up staffing levels at OSHA to facility increased inspections and investigations.  This budget increase will allow OSHA to do just that.

Continue reading “Democrats Propose Bill to Increase Maximum Penalty for OSHA “Willful” Violations to $700,000 as Part of $3.5 Trillion Budget Reconciliation Package”

OSHA is Tripling Down on Heat-Related Hazards

Today the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a Press Release announcing OSHA’s intention to take aggressive action to “combat the hazards associated with extreme heat exposure…” Given our climate, these actions will necessarily impact a great many of us.

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President Biden Outlines New Vaccination Plan

On September 9th President Biden outlined his multi-prong plan to combat the COVID-19 epidemic. 

Most significantly to employers, the President directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring all employers with 100 or more employees require that employees either be fully vaccinated or produce a negative COVID-19 test result on at least a weekly basis. Then ETS will include language requiring employers to provide paid time off for employees to be vaccinated or recover from being vaccinated. It is unclear whether or not the ETS will contain a similar mandate for employees to obtain a COVID-19 test. Under some circumstances, an ETS can become effective immediately upon publication.

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The ARPA COBRA Notice Deadline is Just Around the Corner

You may recall that under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), group health plans that are subject to COBRA must provide coverage to assist eligible individuals (AEI) at no cost between April 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021 (the Subsidy Period). In addition, plan sponsors must notify affected AEIs within a window (45 to 15 days) before the premium assistance will end. So, plan sponsors must issue notices to AEI’s whose continuation coverage runs through September 30 no later than next Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

Continue reading “The ARPA COBRA Notice Deadline is Just Around the Corner”

You Absolutely Can Require Your Employees to be Vaccinated; Unless…

The EEOC’s position on this issue is pretty clear: Federal law does not prevent an employer from requiring all employees entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, subject to the reasonable accommodation provisions of Title VII and the ADA and other EEO considerations. https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws Section K.1.

Recent judicial rulings have agreed. As the judge in the recent Houston Methodist Hospital case held, the hospital is in the business of saving lives without infecting patients with the virus, and as such, an employer that mandates vaccines, regardless of whether it is in a safety-sensitive industry, may intend to demonstrate that it cares for all of its employees and wants to ensure a safe workplace.

Continue reading “You Absolutely Can Require Your Employees to be Vaccinated; Unless…”

Texas Increases Protections for Employees Filing Sexual Harassment Claims

Texas recently passed two new Bills (Senate Bill 45 and House Bill 21) that increase protections for sexual harassment claimants. Each new statute goes into effect on September 1, 2021. These laws present significant changes to existing Texas law.

Definition of an “Employer”

Prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 45, the relevant portions of the Texas Labor Code applied only to employers with fifteen (15) or more employees, and only the entity could be held liable, not an individual. Under the new law, the definition of an employer has been expanded to include any person or entity who employs one or more employees, or “acts directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee.” This change means that many more small employers, and their owners and supervisors, will face potential liability.

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HHS and DOJ Issue Guidance on How Disability Laws Apply to “Long COVID”: Get Ready for More Demands for Reasonable Accommodations

Although most people get over COVID-19 in a few weeks, some suffer lingering effects for many months. The people who suffer these lingering effects are referred to as “long-haulers” and the condition is called “long COVID”. This week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) jointly issued Guidance on how long-haulers may be protected as disabled under the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. You can find the Guidance here: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-providers/civil-rights-covid19/guidance-long-covid-disability/index.html.

Generally, the HHS and DOJ indicate that long COVID is a physical or mental impairment and that it can qualify as a disability if it substantially limits one or more major life activities. The Guidance specifies that long COVID can qualify as a disability even its’ symptoms (i.e., headaches, shortness of breath, tiredness, heart palpitations, cough, depression, anxiety, or dizziness) come and go, as long as they would substantially limit a major life activity when the symptom is active. This is going to be problematic because many employees are going to suffer from these symptoms.

Continue reading “HHS and DOJ Issue Guidance on How Disability Laws Apply to “Long COVID”: Get Ready for More Demands for Reasonable Accommodations”

Don’t Miss the August 1 Notice Deadline For Louisiana’s Revised Pregnancy Discrimination Law

Those of you who receive my updates are, hopefully, aware that employer’s must provide written notice of their right to be free from discrimination based on medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions to all new employees upon the commencement of their employment. (Act 393, which you can find here https://legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=1235882).

Act 393 becomes effective on August 1, 2021. This means that employers must provide the written notice to all new employees hired on or after August 1, 2021. Employers have until December 1, 2021, to provide the same written notice to existing employees.

Don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you need assistance in creating the notice required by Act 393 or if you have any questions.

If You Have Employees in Texas, Your Risk of a Sex Harassment Claim Just Increased

Texas recently passed two new laws regarding sex harassment that will impact most employers who have employees in Texas. Both of these new laws go into effect on Sept. 1 of this year.  

Senate Bill 45 amends the Texas Labor Code by:

Continue reading “If You Have Employees in Texas, Your Risk of a Sex Harassment Claim Just Increased”

U.S. DOL Issues NPR Implementing New $15 an Hour Federal Contractor Minimum Wage

Today the U.S. Department of Labor issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (you can find it here https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2021-15348.pdf ) that establishes standards to enforce President Biden’s Executive Order 14026, “Increasing the Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors”. 

EO 14026 and the DOL Rules will directly impact federal contractors in several ways:

  • Effective January 30, 2022, the minimum wage for workers on covered federal contracts will increase to $15 per hour,
  • Ensure that disabled workers on federal contracts receive at least $15 an hour,
  • By 2024 eliminate the tipped minimum wage for federal contract workers, and
  • The federal contract minimum wage will be indexed to inflation.

As a comparison, the current federal contract minimum wage is $10.95 per hour.

Since several Democrat state Attorneys General have brought criminal charges against Federal Contractors for what would have previously been classified as innocent mistakes, Federal Contactors must make doubly sure that they are complying with all Rules and Regulations regarding the compensation of workers on these types of projects.